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Over $1M worth of dinosaur bones stolen from Utah and sold to China

A group is accused of dealing 150,000 pounds of paleontological resources stolen from the protected land.
A person holds a dinosaur fossil.
Posted at 1:09 PM, Oct 24, 2023

Four people were indicted by a federal grand jury this week for allegedly purchasing and selling over $1 million worth of fossilized remains and dinosaur bones that were illegally removed from federal and state lands in Utah. 

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, 65-year-old Vint Wade and 67-year-old Donna Wade from Moab, Utah, paid cash and checks for paleontological resources that were illegally removed by other individuals from protected federal land. 

The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act defines paleontological resources as any fossilized remains, traces or imprints of organisms, preserved in or on the Earth’s crust, that have paleontological interest and provide information about the history of life on Earth.

The Wades stockpiled the paleontological goods to sell to national vendors at gem and minerals shows, including the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The DOJ said they also sold items to 67-year-old Steven Willing of Los Angeles and 40-year-old Jordan Willing of Ashland, Oregon. 

Steven and Jordan Willing used their company, JMW Sales, to export dinosaur bones to China by mislabeling them and deflating their value to avoid detection by federal agents, the DOJ said. 

'Extremely' rare mammal-like fossils from Jurassic discovered in Utah
A painting depicting an Early Jurassic scene from the Navajo Sandstone desert.

'Extremely' rare mammal-like fossils from Jurassic discovered in Utah

While they may resemble otters or ferrets, the animals are actually cynodonts — a form of reptile and a precursor to the early mammals.


In total, the group is accused of dealing 150,000 pounds of paleontological resources stolen from the protected land between March 2018 and until at least March 2023, according to the DOJ. 

All four defendants have been charged with conspiring against the U.S., violating the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, theft of U.S. property and other charges. 

The DOJ said the defendants caused over $3 million in damages through the scheme, which includes the commercial and scientific values and the cost of restoration and repair of all the fossilized remains and dinosaur bones.  

“By removing and processing these dinosaur bones to make consumer products for profit, tens of thousands of pounds of dinosaur bones have lost virtually all scientific value, leaving future generations unable to experience the science and wonder of these bones on federal land,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins.

Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Land Management’s Monticello Field Office, the FBI’s Salt Lake City field office, the Grand County Sheriff and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office are all investigating the case. The District of Utah is prosecuting the case as an environmental crime.